Marvel Plot Points

A fan site for the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game by Margaret Weis Productions

Traitors in our Midst: How to Handle Double-Agents In-Game

agents-of-shield-ragtag-ward-and-buddy

The revelations of Captain America: Winter Soldier and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. left fans reeling upon the discovery that Hydra had infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. (Spoilers, but if you’re reading a website devoted to Marvel Roleplaying, you’ve likely seen the Winter Soldier). This, along with the revelation early in the first New Avengers run that Spider-Woman was working for Hydra has left a lot of RPG fans wondering how to handle running double-agents in-game.

Marvel Heroic works a bit differently than other games, and that’s where betrayal can work to the story’s advantage. In a game like Dungeons and Dragons, players would be expected to communicate with the DM behind the scenes in order to establish their betrayal and keep the truth from the other players at the table.

With Marvel Heroic, you have a few options:

1. Everyone at the Table Knows: In Marvel Heroic, you are not so much playing the character yourself, you are the writer for the comic book character, as are all the other players. As a result, the players can know, but their characters can remain in the dark. This can lead to some entertaining scenes where the players purposely say things they know allude to the character’s betrayal. The players can all work together to add to the tension and suspense of this character’s inevitable reveal.

2. No One Knows, Not Even You: In this case, you don’t even have to know. Comics are full of situations like this, where there’s little hint that one of the characters is a traitor, until it’s revealed. The writers will sometimes admit in interviews that they had no idea until they wrote the scene that that character was a traitor. This can be super interesting for the whole group as the player realizes, “Wait… I’ve been the traitor this whole time!”

In your next Marvel Heroic game, give a little betrayal a try. And let us know how it works out for you.

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About Mark

Mark is a military veteran, game designer, a believer in the oxford comma, and an all-around nerd.

10 comments on “Traitors in our Midst: How to Handle Double-Agents In-Game

  1. Grady Bailey (@GB330033)
    December 15, 2014

    I think there’s also room in the game for a third option: Only the Watcher, traitor player and traitor character know.

    I introduced a similar thing early on in my campaign when the players were working through Secrets and Lies (https://marvelplotpoints.wordpress.com/2012/10/08/brand-new-mini-event-secrets-and-lies/). One player, unknown to the rest of the team, took the deep-cover double agent milestone, and had to roleplay accordingly. It set up some great character dynamics later on, because the other players don’t know if they were REALLY a double-agent the whole time or if they still have a traitor in their midst!

    Basically, I just want to throw that third option out there and say that it definitely can be done.

  2. Mark
    December 15, 2014

    That’s true. That be really interesting for a group. Who could be the traitor?

  3. Randall Parker (@Bl00dwerK)
    December 16, 2014

    You guys have been killin’ it lately. Totally appreciate all your work!

  4. Gary Mitchell
    January 28, 2015

    This is pretty much what happened in the campaign I played in:
    We started off with the Breakout scenario and I played Quicksilver. Remembering, when Pietro had lied later on in Mighty Avengers, claiming his actions in “Son of M” were those of a Skrull replacement, I thought to myself “What if that was true? What if it goes right back to when he and his sister were captured by the Superskrull, during the classic Kree/Skrull war?” So I had a (quiet) word with the Watcher of our game and he loved the idea.
    Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your viewpoint) about 3 sessions later while in the Savage Land QuickSkrullver was killed when the player running the Sentry unleashed the Void after rolling too many ones and two’s and ramping up the Doom Pool (Damn you, Growing Dread!!!) and the corpse revealed the speedster to be a Warskrull.
    I carried on the campaign with Ka-Zar (who moved to New York and joined SHIELD, in order to uncover Skrull threats to the Savage Land) Our Watcher attempted to move on with Civil War. The rest of the group, however, decided that registration was a minor issue compared to a Skrull invasion and the whole campaign quickly turned into a Secret Invasion campaign involving a manic/depressive Dr Strange, a Bruce Banner resolutely refusing to Hulk out, Ka-zar (promoted to Deputy Director of SHIELD due to his intervention in Washington saving the lives of numerous Senators) and Deadpool, God of Thunder (Yes, Wade found Mjiolnir. Don’t ask.)
    If anyone is running a traitor-in-our-midst scenario, expect repercussions through out the campaign. This is a good thing and makes for some excellent games but Watchers, be prepared to throw out all your plans…
    Oh, and House of M and Decimation still happened. And I intend revealing exactly why, if I ever run that Annihilation campaign I never got round to….

    • Andrew Gatlin
      January 29, 2015

      I’m sorry, but I really need to know more about Deadpool, God of Thunder. You can’t just throw something like that out there and walk off!

  5. Gary Mitchell
    February 2, 2015

    Here’s a link to a blog set up by our (ex)Watcher.
    Oh, and missed the bit where Wade transported RoboHulk to Asgard as a present to Odin….
    https://growingdread.wordpress.com/datafiles/thorpool/

  6. Gary Mitchell
    February 3, 2015

    Incidently and (sort of) in keeping with the theme of this article, I’ve created player datafiles for a number of Secret Invasion Skrull luminaries (Veranke, Criti Noll [both versions] etc) if you guys at PlotPoints are interested?

  7. Rodrigo Maia Rocha
    September 20, 2015

    I like the ideia of the player deciding if he is or isn’t a traitor just in the crucial moment (when he hits the 10XP Milestone).
    I was running a version of Secret Invasion, and then I came with this Milestone:

    TRUST NO ONE

    1 XP When somebody doubts that you are who you claim to be

    3 XP When you provide a compelling reason to either accuse someone else of being an alien or of proving that you are who you claim to be.

    10 XP When you are conclusively revealed to be either yourself or an alien infiltrator.

  8. Rodrigo Maia Rocha
    September 20, 2015

    … and this one as well:

    Hidden Threat

    1 XP when you take part in a discussion with someone who doesn’t know if you’re the person or if you’re impersonating.

    3 XP when you take out a target that you believe someone (or something) else was taken their place.

    10 XP when you either disappear into a role, becoming a longterm sleeper agent, or when you leave a cover, returning to the bosom of the Skrull Empire.

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This entry was posted on December 15, 2014 by in Tips & Tricks.

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